Simple Crafts: A Leaf Book For Fall


Izzy, our little kindergartener, has always been a collector of sorts. She’s especially drawn to nature - everywhere we go, she looks for treasures like flowers (aka weeds), acorns, chestnuts, rocks, shells, sticks, or leaves, whatever she can stash in her pockets and sneak home.

Last weekend, Gary spent several hours trimming a part of our fence bushes that’s gotten way overgrown (maintaining a nice curb appeal isn’t our strong suit :p). The kiddos were excited to help out. They had been busy running back and forth helping Gary move the branches into one giant pile when Izzy came in with a stack of leaves and sticks in her little hands. “I’m bringing these to the leaf museum for the school science room,” she excitedly announced, and carefully laid everything out on the table.

I’m pretty lazy when it comes to crafts nowadays, but these leaves are so beautiful that I wanted to preserve them: the variations of colors, shapes, the intricate veins. I also wanted something to help me remember the happy Izzy who treasured the littlest things. Enter: a simple hand-sewn book where the kids can document and keep all the leaves they pick every autumn. It ended up being a nice and easy seasonal project (I’m all about easy projects!), and the girls really enjoyed it.

Izzy’s front yard leaf collection.

Izzy’s front yard leaf collection.

We gently wiped the leaves before pressing them in Nathan’s heavy encyclopedia, and waited for a couple days.

We gently wiped the leaves before pressing them in Nathan’s heavy encyclopedia, and waited for a couple days.

After several days, when the leaves were nice and flat, we sealed them with a light layer of mod podge.

After several days, when the leaves were nice and flat, we sealed them with a light layer of mod podge.

When the mod podge was dry, the girls arranged and glued the leaves in the book. For the book, we mixed heavyweight watercolor paper + brown kraft paper, folded them in half, and hand sewed them together along the folded line.

When the mod podge was dry, the girls arranged and glued the leaves in the book. For the book, we mixed heavyweight watercolor paper + brown kraft paper, folded them in half, and hand sewed them together along the folded line.

Nathan had zero interest in the leaves (oh well. He just wanted to doodle in the book we made, but the girls wouldn’t let him.)

Nathan had zero interest in the leaves (oh well. He just wanted to doodle in the book we made, but the girls wouldn’t let him.)

Cover design by Zoey (9) and Izzy (5).

Cover design by Zoey (9) and Izzy (5).

Hiking with Kids: Naches Loop Trail


The kids didn’t have school on Friday, so Gary blocked off the work day and we went on a spontaneous day trip to mt. Rainier. Our original plan was to hike the popular Naches Loop trail, as it’s mostly flat and a totally doable distance for little ones. But when we got there, everything was covered in snow! Not at all the fall colors we were expecting from the photos other hikers posted just a couple days ago. The kids were so excited to see snow, but without proper shoes, their little feet were wet and freezing after just a short walk around Tipsoo lake by the trailhead.

We decided to skip the actual trail in the end (and learned the lesson to be better prepared next time!) but we still had fun taking pictures + eating all the snacks while marveling at the beauty of mount Rainier + throwing snowballs into the frozen lake. Some days, I still can’t believe we live so close to places like this, filled with so much natural beauty that God created.

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In My Kitchen: Sesame Oil Chicken Soup


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It feels like we’ve skipped fall entirely in Seattle and jumped straight into winter. Half of our household has gotten sick and recovered, all of our summer clothes are stashed away, and I’ve been craving and making a lot of soups in the kitchen. Sesame oil chicken soup is a literal translation from its Taiwanese name. My aunt taught me how to make it two years ago, and since then it’s become part of our family menu rotation. Now, before I go on, I wanted to make one thing clear: I’ve tasted many other versions of this soup made by highly experienced moms and aunties from the older generation, and somehow my version doesn’t taste anything close to theirs (I’m no chef that’s for sure!) but our kids LOVE this. It’s a versatile base for a simple one-pot meal, and is so incredibly easy to make:

Cast of ingredients: Garlic, toasted sesame oil, ginger, and chicken (I used chicken wings here, but you can use chicken thigh, with or without bones, or a whole chicken if you’d like.)

Cast of ingredients: Garlic, toasted sesame oil, ginger, and chicken (I used chicken wings here, but you can use chicken thigh, with or without bones, or a whole chicken if you’d like.)

Turn the heat to medium high, add sesame oil, put in slices of ginger and the garlic chunks in the pot.

Turn the heat to medium high, add sesame oil, put in slices of ginger and the garlic chunks in the pot.

Watch it sizzle for about a minute or two, the ginger and garlic should be lightly browned, but careful to not burn it.

Watch it sizzle for about a minute or two, the ginger and garlic should be lightly browned, but careful to not burn it.

Throw in the chicken of your choice…

Throw in the chicken of your choice…

Add 6-8 cups of water (or packaged organic chicken broth), stir to make sure the chicken doesn’t stick to the bottom. Bring it to boil, let it simmer for at least 1-2 hours.

Add 6-8 cups of water (or packaged organic chicken broth), stir to make sure the chicken doesn’t stick to the bottom. Bring it to boil, let it simmer for at least 1-2 hours.

Ingredients I used:

  • 40g of ginger, cut up in slices

  • 30 g of garlic, in big pieces

  • 550g of chicken wings, washed
    (I use drumsticks, chicken thighs w/ or w/o bones, or even a small whole chicken sometimes. Chicken wings were just what I happened to have in the freezer this time.)

  • 40-50g of Japanese toasted sesame oil, about 1/4 cup

  • 6-8 cups of water, or packaged chicken broth
    (I’ve tried it with packaged bone broth once, and while it could just be that brand, the flavor of the bone broth was too overpowering that it altered the taste of the original recipe. Plain chicken broth (I used the organic kind from costco) works much better.)

  • Sea salt, to taste

Instructions:

  • Turn the stove on medium high, pour in the sesame oil, add in ginger slices and garlic pieces

  • Wait for it to heat up and sizzle for a few minutes, until the ginger and garlic are delicately and lightly browned (careful not to burn it)

  • Add in the washed and cleaned chicken (careful not to burn yourself here, the pot will be hot)

  • Add in water or chicken broth, stir it gently to make sure the chicken doesn’t stick to the bottom. Bring it to boil.

  • Turn down the heat, lid’s on, and let the soup simmer for 1.5-2 hours.

Variations:
Sometimes if I’m feeling extra, I add one more ingredient to this soup - napa cabbage, taiwanese cabbage, daikon, or shittake mushrooms are some of my go-tos.

On One-Pot Meals:
When I’m feeling lazy on a weeknight and just want to do a one-pot meal, I serve this soup with all kinds of dry noodles depending on what we have in the pantry that day. Or sometimes I add rice along with some simple greens, and make it into a pot of chicken congee.

Taiwanese soup recipe

Motherhood: Gentleness.


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The word gentleness has been on my mind lately. It was mentioned three days in a row in my devotion last week, which sort of caught me off guard because it made me see how badly I need it in my life, and how much I lack of it. And that perhaps, I never truly understood what it means to live it out in life.

Gentleness is kind, tender, mild-mannered, and stable. It is also strong, compassionate, slow to speak, and loving. It’s funny, but I never thought of myself as a gentle person. I used to think it’s a genetic thing, a natural disposition, that you are either born a gentle person, or you are not. It was especially evident after I became a mom, where my character and personality flaws are constantly tested and exposed (and confirmed over and over again that I’m not a gentle person at all.) It doesn’t take much for me to go from a mild, soft voice to impatient scolding when my kids disobey, give me bad attitude, ignore their responsibilities, say or do unkind things. And it’d fill me with guilt as not only is it an ineffective discipline strategy, my kids deserve a better role model and mother. The feeling of inadequacy would creep in when I wasn’t able to find the strength to keep my words and emotions under control in these tricky situations. I was stressing out for not being able to do better day after day when I was gently reminded this verse in my devotion:


“Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. 
Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart,
and you will find rest for your souls
. (Matthew 11:28-29.)

Gentleness isn’t something I can force myself to have even with all my willpower. More importantly, gentleness isn’t an inherent trait, but a work of God. It’s the fruit of God’s spirit inside of us. Gentleness (along with humility and rest) happens when I offload my burden to God, put my trust in Him and walk closely with Him. I was so stunned when I read it last week. Like, it is so true, so simple and so right - I should have known that all along. My heart is incredibly humbled for the reminder, and hopeful for the promise and love. It is comforting to know that, in this journey of motherhood, God doesn’t expect me to do everything on my own, but instead He wants me to share my burdens and worries with Him.

Raising Readers: Diversity in the Middle-Grade Books

My oldest daughter, Zoey, is a bookworm like her dad was. She loved being read to and asked for it all the time when she was little. Now a fourth grader and an avid reader, she likes to carefully re-read the books she enjoys, and her favorite downtime activity is to curl up on the couch with a good book, which she somehow does gracefully with her siblings running around and chasing one another in the background.

During a re-organization of our bookshelves, I noticed how many of Zoey’s favorite books are written by authors of color, and I just feel so lucky that my daughter, growing up an Asian American, has the opportunity and privilege to read a variety of racial, cultural, and socio-economic representations at such a young age.

Middle grade books favorites and recommendations

I rounded up some of our favorites here today because as a parent, I didn’t feel like it was particularly easy to discover some of these options, and I often benefit from other parents’ recommendations. When I can find time, I try to read them myself too, to get a glimpse of what my daughter’s reading/her taste, and most importantly we can discuss the stories together :)

Middle grade books recommendations